Imagine it: you are sitting in the audience, waiting for a professional presentation to begin. Before you arrived at the presentation venue, you were busy responding to emails, reviewing spreadsheets, and analyzing data. You were swamped with facts, stats, and the demands of business communication. While wading through your daily obligations at work, you let the analytical side of personality reign, and suppressed your emotional side.
Now, imagine that the speaker takes the stage, and launches into her presentation by presenting complex charts and graphs. While the data featured on the slides might be paradigm shifting for you and your industry, the information will not likely stick in your brain. If you cannot recall the facts of the presentation after it concludes, how can you take actions based on the new information? Most likely, you will be unable take the actions the presenter intended, simply because you do not remember most of her talk.
The answer is twofold.
1. First, by the time you arrived at the presentation, your mind was probably already at maximum capacity for facts and stats.
Cognitive Load Theory explains that our minds can easily become overloaded if required to process too much complex information. Once our brains reach capacity, information passes through our minds, but does not stick.
Since most modern business professionals are required to constantly process complicated data and facts, most audience members arrive at a presentation with their minds already at capacity. Even if audience members get a break of sorts while waiting for your presentation to being, it is likely that most people are still reading emails on their phones, or processing ideas for a problem while waiting for you to take the stage. Thus, it is safe to assume that audience members need to be presented information in a style that is easy to process.
2. In addition, our minds prefer stories to facts. This is the second reason that you might not recall the charts and graphs presented in the hypothetical presentation described above. Unlike data, stories are seemingly effortless to understand, and easy to remember.
Stories are easier to recall because descriptive tales can activate up to 7 areas of the human brain. With so many areas of the mind engaged, listeners experience the story, instead of process it. In addition, a carefully crafted story will likely inspire emotional reactions from audience members. Emotions, not logic, inspire most actions.
So, not only will audience members remember a story more easily than facts, a story is also more likely to inspire action. Since all presentations need a call to action, the easier you make it for you audience to follow your call to action, the more successful you will be as a presenter.
Learn more about the power of stories for presentations by reviewing the infographic below.
Conclusion: Stats, data, and facts are an essential part of any professional presentation. However, stories should be the hero of your presentations, because stories are easy to remember, and inspire action.